Monday, September 21, 2009

Margolis on the Vietnamization of Afghanistan

Obama is about to receive a request for 40,000 additional troops in Afghanistan.  With that request will come a warning that, without those troops, failure is imminent.   As  soon as I heard this, I remembered the escalation of the war in Vietnam and the disaster that war became.  So when I saw this article, I identified with it immediately.

AFGHANISTAN-VIETNAM We should hang a huge neon sign over Afghanistan: "CAUTION: DEJA VU."

Afghanistan's much ballyhooed recent election staged by its foreign occupiers turned out to be a fraud wrapped up in a farce -- as this column predicted a month ago. It was as phony and meaningless as U.S.-run elections in Vietnam in the 1970s.

Canada played a shameful role in facilitating this obviously rigged vote.

Meanwhile, American and NATO generals running the Afghan war amazingly warn they risk being beaten by Taliban tribesmen in spite of their 107,000 soldiers, B-1 heavy bombers, F-15s, F-16s, F-18s, Apache and AC-130 gunships, heavy artillery, tanks, radars, killer drones, cluster bombs, white phosphorus, rockets, and space surveillance.

Washington has spent some $250 billion in Afghanistan since 2001. Canada won't even reveal how many billions it has spent. Each time the U.S. sent more troops and bombed more villages, Afghan resistance sharply intensified and Taliban expanded its control, today over 55% of the country.

Now, U.S. commanders are begging for at least 40,000 more U.S. troops -- after President Barack Obama just tripled the number of American soldiers there. Shades of Vietnam-style "mission creep." Ghost of Gen. William Westmoreland, rattle your chains.

The director of U.S. national intelligence just revealed Washington spent $75 billion US last year on intelligence, employing 200,000 people. Embarrassingly, the U.S. still can't find Osama bin Laden or Mullah Omar after hunting them for eight years. Washington now fears Taliban will launch a Vietnam-style Tet offensive against major cities.

This week, in a wildly overdue observation, U.S. military chief Adm. Mike Mullen told Congress, we must rapidly build the Afghan army and police."


But the U.S. record in foreign army-building is not encouraging. Remember "Vietnamization?" That was the Pentagon's effort to build a South Vietnamese army that could stand on its own, without U.S. air cover, supplies, and "advisers." In early 1975, it collapsed and ran.

Any student of Imperialism 101 knows that after invading a resource-rich or strategic nation you immediately put a local stooge in power, use disaffected minorities to run the government (divide and conquer), and build a native mercenary army. Such troops, commanded by white officers, were called "sepoys" in the British Indian Army and "askaris" in British East Africa.

America's attempts to build an Afghan sepoy army of 250,000 failed miserably. The 80,000 men raised to date are 95% illiterate and only on the job for money to feed their families. They have no loyalty to the corrupt western-installed government in Kabul. CIA's 74,000 "contractors" (read mercenaries) in Afghanistan are more reliable.

But the biggest problem in Afghanistan, as always, is tribalism. Many of the U.S.-raised Afghan army troops are minority Tajiks, Uzbeks, and Hazara who used to collaborate with the Soviets. They are scorned by the majority Pashtun tribes as enemies and foreign stooges. These U.S.-paid troops also know they will face death when the U.S. and its western allies eventually quit Afghanistan.

The Soviets had a much better understanding of Afghanistan than the American military, which one senior British general recently called, "culturally ignorant." Moscow built an Afghan government army of around 240,000 men. Many were loyal Communists. They sometimes fought well, as I experienced in combat against them near Jalalabad. But, in the end, they smelled defeat and crumbled… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <Toronto Sun>

As I recover from information deprivation, I continue to learn, and the more I learn about this war, the less I like it.  We’re supporting the WRONG government, using the WRONG tactics and training the WRONG troops.  I don’t know what to do, but it has something to do with tribalism.  Tribalism is the key to Afghanistan.  Somehow, we need to work with local tribal leaders, instead of propping up the corrupt Bush/GOP puppet, Karzai.  Don’t think for a moment that I don’t support our troops.  Our guys and gals there are heroes.  I trust that Obama would never intentionally feed them into a meat grinder, but if he mistakenly follows conventional wisdom, that’s exactly what will happen.


Annette said...

Did you ever see the interview Pres. Obama did with Rachel before the election? She asked him about Afghanistan and Pakistan and he gave one of the best and most comprehensive answers I have ever heard from anyone. About how changing course was needing, about helping the drug farmers change from growing poppies to pomegranates so they would have a good cash crop instead of a harmful one.. just so intelligent. If you can find it.. you should listen to it.. No one has ever asked him those kind of questions nor has he answered in such a way since. She is the absolute best at drawing out the answers and letting people talk and getting them to talk... I wish more journalists were like her.

TomCat said...

Annette, I did see it, and I agree it was a wonderful interview. Unfortunately, what he said then has little resemblance, if any, to what's happening on the ground there now. The Karzai government competes with the warlords and the Taliban for a cut of the drug money.

ivan said...

Curious tha Eric Margolis, seemingly the only Canadian journalist with a head on his shoulders (not talking head)--should work for a right-wing newspaper. More power, somehow to the Toronto SUN, I guess.

the walking man said...

There is a difference between Afghanistan and Viet Nam that makes the comparison not quite right.

Viet Nam was not training them who would harm or destroy the western civilizations.

Viet Nam was a war run by bean counters (McNamara) and not by military.

Securing Viet Nam was never the objective of that war but rather it was a placebo for fighting in blood and bullets the cold war.

I say no to 40,000 troops in Afghanistan and yes to 400,000 armed with battlefield tactical offensive nuclear weapons. Kill the Taliban and them that support and are trained by it and leave the Afghans to continue their own 2 millennium tribal warfare as they would.

If you are going into a fight have clear objectives and be willing to kill the enemy utterly and all that offer them aid and comfort, if not then short cut the route the terrorists take and just invite them in to this country.

War has always been ugly business and as technology advanced it has an even greater capacity for ugliness. But it is still fighting them who have sworn to kill us wherever we are.

Brother Tim said...

It seems that Walking Man has bought into the Military/Industrial Complex's talking points.

My post today (Tuesday) touches on this.

TomCat said...

Ivan, that's interesting indeed. I did not know the Sun's politics. At least they have the journalistic integrity to present opposing views.

Mark, at the time we were told they were trying to take over the world, and that if we lost Vietnam, all Asia would fall. The military has only been running Afghanistan since Obama took office. Before that it was Rumsfeld and then the politicos in DoD. I do have to agree that a limited war id a fool's errand, but we don't have 400,000 troops. I think the nuclear option is off the table. This brings to mind what LBJ once said, "We're going to give those little yellow bastards freedom, if we have to kill every last one of them to do it." Bad idea. The consequences are too unpredictable.

Brother, I'll be over to read it in a bit.

the walking man said...

Brother Tim

not to be confrontational but no one does my thinking for me. at least give me the courtesy of believing I have done my own research and formed my own opinions accordingly.

TomCat said...

We all have the right to hold our own opinions, even when we disagree. :-)

Brother Tim said...

Walking Man--
I'm sorry to have offended you. I was in no way implying someone was doing your thinking for you, nor do I believe you don't do research, as evidenced by my use of the words, 'bought into'. Often, if our perception is skewed, hearing others with similar views, emboldens our misperceptions.

My Grandpappy taught me that violence is the tool of the poorly educated. An educated and intelligent man can find resolution without resorting to violence. WE have fallen into the snare of adopting tribal barbarism; just because we use technologically advanced weapons systems does not relieve us of the responsibility to suppress these primal urges.

I disagree with your analysis of Viet Nam, but realize that that is a debatable subject.

The thing I totally disagree with, and don't feel is rationally debatable is, your violent approach to Afghanistan. Thank God, cooler heads are prevailing.

The use of nuclear weapons, tactical or otherwise, would sound the death knell for the NPT, and thus, be the harbinger for the desolation of the planet earth.

Your statement, ".... fighting them who have sworn to kill us wherever we are.", reeks of fear and paranoia. Their numbers are actually quite small, and do not require, nor justify, the use of the worlds largest military and hundreds of thousands of American fighters. It definitely does not warrant or justify the decimation of another's piece of the planet.

Peace, Bro

the walking man said...

Brother Tim

It is not something lightly considered. Tactical nuclear weapons are in the arsenal and I am of a mind that if you are going to fight, then fight with every fist you have.

Do you honestly believe that the Taliban and their ilk are reasonable? You are aware of the Wahhabi are you not? It is contemporary radical Muslim thought preached openly in the mosques of Saudi Arabia and the theory behind bin Laden's 1996 fatwa that rationalized the killing of any American citizen wherever they are found.

Regardless of what the apologists say I do not see where Islam is the religion of peace. It would appear that in my lifetime more death has been wrought in the name of Islam than any other cause.

I am not paranoid, in fact I am hopeful just not when it comes to war. If you are going to engage then engage all the way. Viet Nam is a standing example of half measures put forth by them who were great economists when in the auto industry but not brilliant leaders for war. You do remember that troops had to justify the number of bullets that were being expended don't you?

We created bin Laden and the Taliban and in my view it is up to us to destroy the monster. If rooting them out of their mountain strongholds takes depleted uranium and nuclear artillery then so be it. They would do no different on these shores given the opportunity.

I was and am still opposed to the time wasted in Iraq, that is wrong and dirty. Afghanistan and the objective is not tied into Iraq even though in the minds of most it would seem to be. Had we at the very start committed the troops and resource diverted to Iraq the objective of destroying Al Queda and the Taliban may be completed already. But by taking the half measure chaney did there we now have twice the tactical problem.

If you think there is a way to dialog with the enemy I would certainly like to hear it because so far even our supposed allies over there (Pakistan and the Karzhai government) are two faced and working for their own advantage. When you are fighting brutally oppressive and deadly enemy then you must by the very nature of the conflict be just as ruthless in the pursuit of the goals. Then once accomplished get the hell out and leave them to whatever they will fight out for themselves in the ensuing civil war.

War is ugly no doubt. Name me one time TRUE peace returned to any region without without war.

TomCat said...

Brother, I believe the same thing. The way I say it, is that violence is the last resort of fools. Yet, I've known Mark for years and know him to be highly intelligent and no fool. I do agree that nuclear weapons would kill the NPT, but think that would be the least of the ill effects.

Mark, Wahhabism is the belief of the Saudi Royal household, but even in Saudi Arabia the Wahhabi are a minority. They are an even smaller minority throughout the rest of the Muslim world. Al Qaeda is Wahhabi, but the Taliban is split between several sects. While their Saudi benefactors have tried to convert them, they have not met with much success. Wahhabism is to Islam what the extreme militant religious right is to Christianity. I can name yo a time. Consider how Gandhi brought the British occupation of India to an end.

the walking man said...

And look at the aftermath when The Mahatma's adherents refused to follow his teachings, war that is still to this day being played out between the Hindu of India and the Muslim of Pakistan. One man can only make a difference while he lives and Gandhi was murdered and his abiding principles with him. It is sad to say but we are a violent prone genus on the face of the earth.

And the Wahhabi are a minority view but the radicalism is preached from the mosque tower and accepted. It only took 11 of that sects adherents to alter the course of American history. Please do not get me started on the criminal house of Saud.

I agree, and have said it before, the nuclear option is off the table, where we disagree is should it be.

TomCat said...

Hi Mark. You have a good point that the peace did not last beyond Gandhi's lifetime, but if we're going to extend the time line, the only war that will ever bring lasting peace is the one that w wipes humanity off the face of the earth, may it never happen.

You do not need to convince me about the criminal house of Saud. I'm already convinced. Were they not, they would not be so close to the criminal house of Bush.

I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree. :-)